By: Damon Smith, Community Outreach Director
The boards, staff, and volunteers at CHANGE Illinois and the CHANGE Illinois Action Fund strongly support the First Annual Democracy Day on Thursday, September 15, 2022. Empowering residents to make informed votes and help govern our communities is of critical importance now more than ever. Also key to empowering communities is giving residents fair districts and competitive, fair elections for local, state & congressional offices. Allowing the people to have direct input in the redrawing of their local state and congressional districts is an important path to democratic empowerment.
Far too often, the realities surrounding the impact of redistricting on black, Latino, and other marginalized people have resulted in the reduction of their political power and representation. This long tradition of drawing districts and wards in secret, back-room dealmaking sessions has victimized people and denied them authentic government. How is that a democracy?
That is why CHANGE Illinois and the CHANGE Illinois Action Fund are continuing work to improve ethics and efficiency in government to benefit all Illinoisans with an ambitious endeavor to improve government in Illinois. We aim to travel throughout the state of Illinois hosting “Improving Illinois” town hall meetings The purpose of these community gatherings is to have robust conversations with diverse Illinoisans about the current redistricting process in Illinois and how we, the people, can learn how to prepare for and improve the 2030 redistricting process. These town halls are an opportunity to empower the people of Illinois by sharing how the redistricting process affects their lives. That is what a democracy looks like. That is what a democracy does. That is a democracy.
If more of us raised our voices and actively participated in the redistricting process, we could help ensure that the redistricting plans adopted by our local jurisdictions do not negatively harm our communities. Standing up, speaking out, and staying informed about the abusive power that is gerrymandering and ignoring the will of the people who want and deserve a voice in the shape of their districts will help uplift and secure our democracy for today and the future.
Attacks on our system of democracy have escalated over the last two years. Some state legislatures are creating ways to deny people their right to vote. We’ve witnessed attacks on our government buildings and on our democracy. That’s not right. Democracy does not hinder people from voting. People who value democracy want and need the people to be active and engaged participants. That is why CHANGE Illinois is arming the people with information to prepare all of us for the next census and redistricting process in Illinois.
In order for our democracy to flourish, people of all ages, ethnicities, and areas must be active, informed participants in their governments, civically educated to think critically, and perhaps most important of all, free to express themselves on key issues such as gerrymandering, which affects many other concerns in our daily lives.
All communities deserve to have the resources, abilities, and right to express themselves, create community-oriented discussions, and engage in civic and political life supported by facts and reliable, independent and strong media.
At CHANGE Illinois, we are dedicated to ending gerrymandering and increasing people’s power to participate in our governments and elections. It is our goal to ensure that political representation is fair and open, that barriers to running for elected office fall, and that creating fair representative government is based on trust, not a tradition of corruption and discrimination. We encourage participatory partnerships between the people and their government, removing biases that have colored our past.
CHANGE Illinois imagines a democracy where the people pick who represents them, not elected officials picking their people based on their skewed, backroom-deal maps. What a fine democracy that would be.